Urbanization is one of the most dramatic and permanent forms of land-use change all over the world. Landscape and forest fragmentation, structural and functional changes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and loss of biological diversity are some of the ecological consequences of urbanization (Yli-Pelkonen & Niemela, 2006). And yet the emphasis in urban planning today is on growth management and on maintaining economic health. Implications for ecological health and human-well being are taken for granted (Rees, 1997).
The speed and scale of economic growth in China since the ‘open door’ policy of 1978 is unprecedented; no other country has ever grown this much, this fast. Although China currently emphasises “striving to build an environmentally friendly society” as one of the most important development goals (Tao et al., 2007), the land administration authorities are facing the challenge of effectively incorporating landscape ecology and/or riverine landscape considerations into their planning system.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lists China’s longest river, the Yangtze, among the word’s top 10 rivers at risk (Wong et al., 2007). The major threat of the Yangtze is pollution. It receives 14.2 billion tons of polluted water annually, which is about 42 per cent of China's total. The water is mostly polluted by untreated sewage and industrial effluent, heavy metals, excessive ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants. As a result, the river's annual harvest of aquatic products dropped from 427,000 tons in the 1950s to about 100,000 tons in the 1990s (China Daily, April 15, 2007).
However, last month, about 400,000 rare fish species where released into the Yangtze in an attempt to restock it. The fish species included about 110,000 Chinese Sturgeon and 280,000 Mullet, among others. The fish were released at 11 sites in nine cities. They were bred at the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute (China Daily, April 22, 2007).
Now, will the attempt to restock the river achieve the desired result while pollution in the river is worsening? I was thinking it would have been better to minimize the pollution levels first and only restock after pollution has been reduced. Even if the fish survive, contaminated fish will ultimately be a health hazard to the people. Indeed, some of the fish that have just been released will die due to high levels of pollution.
Your comments on this post would greatly be appreciated.
China Daily, April 15, 2007 ‘Report: Yangtze water worsening’
China Daily, April 22, 2007 ‘400,000 rare fish released to save Yangtze River stocks’
China Daily, June 5, 2006 ‘Environment faces ‘fragile’ balance’
Rees, W.E. (1997). Urban Ecosystems: The human dimension. Urban Ecosystems, 1: 63-75
Tao, T., Tan, Z. & He, X. (2007). Integrating environment into land-use planning through strategic environmental assessment in China: Towards legal frameworks and operational procedures. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 27: 243-265
Wong, C.M., Williams, C.E., Pittock, J., Collier, U. & Schelle, P. (2007). World’s top 10 rivers at risk. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland.
Yli-Pelkonen, V. & Niemela, J. (2006). Use of ecological information in urban planning: Experiences from the Helsinki metropolitan area, Finland. Urban Ecosystems, 19: 211-226